140 participants came together mid-December in Mexico City for a four-day training course. The journalists and editors learned about investigative journalism, ethical journalism and digital, emotional, physical and legal safety. Free Press Unlimited director, Leon Willems: “Journalists who are threatened, are not aware that many fellow-journalists are in the same position and often feel alone and isolated. There is therefore every reason to establish a social network.”
'The government shuts its eyes'
Many journalists in Mexico are eventually exposed to violence. Balbina Flores of Reporters without Borders: 'The main conclusions about 2013: 6 journalists murdered and 2 disappeared, 2 more in exile, more than 65 cases of physical aggression against journalists and more than 20 journalists received death threats.' One of them is Anabel Hernández. Shortly after the publication of her book, Los Señores del Narco in 2010 about the Mexican drugs cartels she was followed when she went to collect her daughter from school. Decapitated animals were put on her doorstep and her family was threatened by armed men.
In December 2013, she is one of the trainers and teaches her fellow-journalists about investigative journalism. Hernández explains why she thinks the training is important: 'The situation has caused journalists in big cities in Mexico to keep their mouths shut. They want to keep doing their work but do not have the proper skills to protect themselves and to inform society about what is going on in our country. But the media and government do not want to provide training to change this.'
Willems confirms this: 'In the meantime, the situation is so serious that large parts of Mexico in fact no longer have a functioning press. Yet the Mexican government shuts its eyes. Just last year, the government did not want Mexico to have priority for a United Nations plan of action for the protection of journalists. This denial of the situation by the Mexican government, results in deaths in the country and leads to far-reaching impunity.'
Journalists can break the silence
Hernández: 'Eventually, we want journalists to break the silence, so that people can make better decisions and change the current reality. But there is still a long way to go.' Free Press Unlimited will therefore continue with various projects. Training and online platforms must ensure that journalists in Mexico collaborate more, improve their skills and knowledge so that more people in Mexico know about what is going on in their country.
Interviews participants: Cees Zoon